Discussion suppers as a means for community engagement

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The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association


PURPOSE: This paper describes how Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network (LVHHN), a large tertiary care urban hospital, used discussion suppers as a means for community engagement designed to lead to community health improvement. An overview of the implementation of the project is described. PROJECT: In 1996, with an awareness of the need to address population-based health improvement, the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust and LVHHN undertook a multiyear, multidimensional effort to improve health and quality of life in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Data were obtained via a series of community and health assessments. Action-Oriented Community Diagnosis and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, a national instrument, are 2 assessments discussed. The community was engaged through a series of discussion suppers in which community data were shared in a friendly, interactive fashion. The process included community definition of priorities from the data and the subsequent determination of corresponding actions (programs). CONCLUSIONS: The success of these activities demonstrates the discussion suppers were an effective approach and that data can be shared with rural areas in ways that build partnerships and provide a basis for joint actions. This is increasingly important as communities expect our health care systems to provide care both within the hospital as well as outside its walls.

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